S/Africa Coy to re-brand Arewa Hotels, says NNDC

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…As WHO scales up Lassa fever response in W/Africa***

The New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) has engaged Castles HMG Africa limited of South Africa to take over operations and management of Arewa Hotels.

The NNDC disclosed in a joint press release signed by Malam Khalil Hamzat, Head Investment Supervision Directorate and Oriena Galletti, Director, Corporate Services for Castles HMG Africa Limited.

 The statement said: “the NNDC signed Strategic Management & Investment Agreement between New Nigeria Development Company Limited as Owners of Arewa Hotels (Dev.) Ltd & Castles HMG Africa (Pty) Limited a subsidiary of Africa Alliance Group (AAG).”

The statement said that Castles HMG Africa (Pty) Ltd would  take over the operation and management of Arewa Hotels Development Ltd.

” They are taking over  for the purpose of redeveloping and implementing a capital investment and transformation plan.

“The transformation plan involves architecture, redesign, renovations, reconstructions, upgrade and revamping of its  facilities.

“The Plan also include aggressive management of all assets under the ownership, management and control of Arewa Hotels Development Limited,” it said.

According to the statement,  the agreement fulfils NNDCs vision for a stronger brand equity, a veritable platform for diverse revenue base through significant investments in infrastructure, assets and technology.

“Both NNDC and AHL currently own or operate five (5) hotels in Nigeria including the iconic Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna with plans to expand its operations over the next few years, a feat that it has achieved in the past across the 19 Northern States of Nigeria.

“Castles HMG Africa Pty Limited targets investments in sizeable underperforming/dilapidated hotel properties in strategic locations, that can be refurbished.”

The NNDC, the statement further said, the agreement would enable the structuring  and repositioning of the hotels to attract massive investments.

“This creates the conditions for attractive financial performance and long-term value creation.

“The partnership agreement aims to bridge the huge gap in the lack of branded Hotels in the North as compared to the Southern parts of Nigeria,” it said.

According to the joint statement, the  Ag. Group Managing Director of NNDC, Mallam Shehu Mai-Bornu said, the signing ceremony was a culmination of over two years of discussions.

 “The stakeholders have it as a duty to make the partnership work for the progress of all.

“Mai-Borno assured Castles HMG Africa that NNDC will be fully committed to the realization of the project.”

Also, Mr Gregory Ozegbe, Chairman/CEO of Castles HMG Africa Pty Limited of South Africa a subsidiary of Africa Alliance Group, said the agreement would further consolidate collaboration with NNDC for strong expansion of partnership.

“The mutual trust we have built up over the last two years forms the basis for the successful execution of the agreement.

“For us, the relationship represents a huge step forward in our growth.

“With this, we have the opportunity to further expand and strengthen our expertise and international hotel brand awareness in the Northern part of Nigeria,” Ozegbe said.

In the meantime, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has scaled up efforts to support the response rate of five countries in West Africa to Lassa fever outbreak as the disease in these areas had escalated.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement in Abuja on Friday, said the speed of escalation remained a great concern to the organisation.

According to Moeti, the five countries affected by the outbreak are Nigeria, Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo, while countries at risk of an outbreak include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone.

She said that Nigeria was currently facing its largest outbreak of Lassa fever as 16 states were already affected with 213 confirmed cases since the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) declared an outbreak on Jan. 22.

Moeti said that this also includes 42 deaths marking a significant increase as it was already a third of the total cases for all of last year when the country was thought to have experienced its worst outbreak.

“With five countries in Western Africa reporting outbreaks of Lassa fever, the World Health Organisation has scaled up efforts to support the region’s response to the disease.

“While these outbreaks are occurring during the Lassa fever season in countries where the disease is endemic, the speed of escalation is of concern.

“The largest outbreak thus far has affected 16 states in Nigeria. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control declared an outbreak of Lassa fever on 22 January 2019.

“The 213 confirmed cases to date including 42 deaths mark a significant increase which is already a third of the total cases for all of last year when Nigeria experienced its worst outbreak of Lassa fever.

“Four health workers have been infected so far in this latest outbreak. In Nigeria, WHO is scaling up efforts to support the Federal authorities, NCDC and affected states in responding to the outbreak.

“An important focus is on early detection and confirmation of suspected cases, providing optimal supportive care and ensuring infection prevention and control measures in designated healthcare facilities in the affected states,” Moeti said.

She said that the organisation has also intensified its technical assistance and was supporting coordination, enhanced surveillance, epidemiological analysis and risk communication.

The regional director said that the organisation was mobilising experts to support case management and infection prevention and control.

She said that to date, a total of 12 cases have been confirmed in Benin, Guinea, Liberia and Togo including two deaths, adding that more suspected cases are being investigated.

She assured that WHO was assisting health authorities in these countries with contact tracing and providing medical and non-medical supplies including technical and financial resources.

Moeti said that this would help in case management, risk communication and logistics.

Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, the WHO Regional Emergencies Director for Africa, said that the organisation remained concerned over the high number of cases recorded so early in the Lassa fever season as the outbreak was still expected to last the next four months.

Fall assured that the organisation was working with health authorities in the five-affected countries to ensure health workers had the capacity to detect cases.

“WHO has set up a regional coordination mechanism for countries to report any suspected case of Lassa fever to expedite the flow of timely information and to assess the situation, recommend actions and help organise assistance.

“WHO has also reached out to the six other at-risk countries – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone, and is supporting prevention and readiness activities as needed,” Fall said.

He urged all countries in the Lassa fever belt to enhance preparedness and response capacities especially for early case detection, laboratory confirmation, case management under recommended barrier nursing, risk communication and community engagement.

According to WHO, Lassa fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness that occurs predominantly in West Africa caused by human exposure to the urine or faeces of infected Mastomys rats.

WHO says that more than 80 per cent of Lassa fever cases are rodent-to-human transmission with Person-to-person transmission occurring in both community and healthcare settings.

To prevent Lassa fever, the organisation recommends that good community hygiene be encouraged in order to discourage rodents from entering homes.

WHO also recommends that grains and other foodstuffs be stored in roddent-proof containers, dispose of garbage far from the home, maintain clean households and keep cats.

WHO says that persons who have died from the disease should be handled safely, urging healthcare workers to always apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients.